Benedict Shegog reveals the 11 fintech brands that deserve recognition for 2017 in this 11FS ‘best of’ fintech roundup.

The 11:FS Pulse analysts spend all their time immersed in the world of fintech. Over the past year, we’ve seen hundreds of different products, features and brands pass through our screens. With the fintech space moving so fast, there’s been a lot to love (and hate). For anyone working in the space that doesn’t currently have a Pulse licence, we wanted to share the 2017 roundup we hashed out over a couple of beers in the Aldgate WeWork. Without further ado, here are the 11 brands that deserve recognition for 2017…

Advances in marketplace banking – Starling

Surging ahead of the competition once again, Starling’s marketplace launch offers a glimpse into what an open banking world might look like. As the marketplace fills out with partners, Starling customers will “be able to choose from a range of products and services that are integrated with Starling, giving them control of their money like never before”. The first integration into the bank’s API comes from Flux, an itemised receipts and rewards startup that gets a special mention for being one of the most ambitious data plays out there.

Best international money transfer service – TransferWise

An old darling of the fintech world, TransferWise went from strength-to-strength in 2017 with their launch of borderless accounts and the announcement that customers were sending more than $1bn with the service every single month. Having been dismissive of TransferWise in its early days, traditional FX players should be starting to take this threat extremely seriously.

Best UX and comms – Monzo

A combination of clean, modern interface and perfectly pitched tone of voice across all channels mean that Monzo has become a byword for brand loyalty. No-nonsense, transparent and user-centric, there’s a lot to love here, whether it’s the community, the attention to detail on the card envelopes, or the extensive set of gifs and emojis that are woven into every customer interaction. A special mention goes to the bank’s release notes on the two app stores. Who else could get a Trump joke onto the app store?

Most impressive rate of releases – Revolut

An eye-watering rate of feature releases has kept Revolut in the press throughout the year. Starting off with the basics of bill-splitting, the challenger bank swiftly pushed on to produce an advanced chatbot support channel, a tonne of partnerships, and announcements of specialist business and euro accounts. Most recently, the bank went back to its FX roots with a zeitgeist-y integration with cryptocurrency exchanges. Compared to the likes of Starling, Atom and Monzo, it feels like Revolut is pushing limits on every front.

The one to watch – Google Tez

2017 was the year that people started talking about big tech companies looking at financial services – industry insiders speculated about Facebook pushing deeper into payments, or Amazon launching a bank. In the end, it was Google that powered ahead with its launch of Tez in India. The app provides an extremely slick P2P layer on top of each of the country’s leading banks. Given the PSD2 changes coming down the line, we feel that Tez is a product that could potentially be rapidly rolled out in a European setting.

Best PFM tool – Yolt

Yolt has done well this year, identifying your regular payments to the likes of Spotify and Netflix, and giving users the option to add renewal dates and categorisation for their payments. We think this sort of subscription management – upgrading downgrading, cancelling and pausing, etc. – will be managed in hubs like this in the future. This is where open banking could move us all towards. Yolt has got there first, though!

Best onboarding journey – KBC

Onboarding in five minutes flat? From a traditional bank, that’s a serious coup. 2017 saw the launch of KBC’s new onboarding process that serves customers with access to an IBAN and to view their accounts with all of the bells and whistles you’d expect from a challenger bank or a nimble fintech. This includes the accessing of a smartphone camera for KYC functionality, a chatbot interface and the chance to add newly minted cards to Apple Wallet and Android Pay.

Best robo-advisor – Wealthsimple

We were so impressed by Wealthsimple’s elegant parallax landing page and intuitive form design this year, but more impressive is the way they quickly form a relationship with their customers by creating a risk profile early on in the process. Equally important is the speed of it all: under five minutes for a journey that involves the risk profile, creating an account and setting up an investment account. A slick and beautiful process to open up a low-cost product, with Wealthsimple taking only 0.4-0.5% in service charges.

Best help and support – Monzo

Though live chat has been a mainstay of the digital bank for some time, 2017 brought more ways for Monzo customers to get answers to their questions. An improved help and support section gave customers some fantastic, new channels to answer all your questions, from machine-learning-powered FAQs, a trending questions section and dynamic links to posts in the community page or the live chat forums. Monzo customers have so much material at their disposal, and with so many other banks still operating on a call-centre-only basis, they have a great deal to be happy about.

Most fun onboarding journey – Chip

Top marks went to Chip for keeping us entertained during our onboarding journey with a series of neat GIFs. Combine this with an intuitive bot to calculate what the user can afford to save, said bot’s well-pitched tone of voice, pre-filled answers, and a bright combination of conversational and more traditional KYC forms, this was easily the most engaging onboarding journey we came across. Special mention should go to Chip’s use of a whole host of different dynamic forms, from free text field through to UX-savvy date input fields.

Best incumbent bank – BBVA

In 2017, BBVA was by far the most exciting traditional bank in terms of digital offerings, and we’re not alone in thinking this. We particularly liked the variety of different design features available on its mobile app, with carousel features sitting neatly alongside a sidebar and an image of the user’s card – BBVA has really put time and money into its digital development, and the UX really shines as a result. What’s more, with rapid product cycles, we can expect further innovation in 2018 (iris scanning, anyone?). Exciting times lie ahead for the Spanish retail bank.

2018 is already shaping up to be a big year for fintech: We’ll see new tech, incoming regulations, big funding rounds, and some smart people doing interesting things. Stay tuned for all the updates.

AUTHOR: Benedict Shegog is a market research analyst at 11:FS. To find out more about 11:FS, visit the website.

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– This article is reproduced with kind permission. Some minor changes may have been made to the text to reflect BankNXT style considerations. See more 11FS content here. Image by nednapa, Shutterstock.com

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11FS

11:FS is a "digital transformation agency" that believes banking should be about more than selling financial products. It is co-founded by David Brear, Jason Bates, Ross Methven, Meaghan Johnson and Simon Taylor. 11:FS produces FinTech Insider, and provides services such as 11:FS Pulse, 11:FS Ventures and 11:FS Talks.

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